The first step to WOWing your customers is enabling your employees to be a positive and effective force. You and your team spend approximately 40 hours every week in your workspace, and that space (whether physical or virtual) has a significant impact on productivity and happiness.
The Classic—Brick and Mortar Office
As long as there have been businesses, there have been brick and mortar offices. It’s the home space, full of cubicles, desks, conference rooms, and coworkers.
Benefits of a Brick and Mortar Office
- A professional space. Having a traditional office space ensures you always have a professional place to bring clients, have meetings, and work with employees. You can even use your office space to develop your brand personality and create community with your clients. If meeting clients in person is vital to customer service success, you might need a traditional office space.
- Collaboration. An office location gives you the advantage of having a physical place for employees to meet and collaborate on ideas.
- Complete control over the office environment. When you have a physical space, you have full control over your office environment. All employees have access to the same tools and resources. You’re also better able to mold your company culture and ensure your output is always high quality.
Challenges of a Brick and Mortar Office
- It’s expensive. Capital is a common problem small businesses face, and rent isn’t cheap. Paying rent as well as buying supplies, furniture, and equipment can add up to a hefty price tag.
- Commute and location can cause you to miss out on talent. Whatever your office location, your talent pool is comprised of area residents. Where virtual or home offices can allow you to hire people from around the country or world, a physical location often limits you to those who are able to commute to the office.
- You have to commit to a lease. Unfortunately, renting an office space is a commitment. It can be difficult to project the size of the space you’ll need, and growing out of it can mean additional costs if you have to break a lease and find a new space.
The One-Man Show—Home Office
If you’re just starting out, a home office might be the best choice for you, as it can be an effective way to balance costs, efficiency, and capabilities.
Benefits of a Home Office
- Schedule flexibility. If you need to get your kids to school by 8:30 am, you can get up, work for an hour, then take your turn on the carpool schedule. When you don’t have a commute, you get to enjoy increased flexibility and the ability to schedule your day around your needs and the needs of your clients.
- Tax benefits and cost saving. If you qualify, you can deduct a portion of your home’s expenses against your business income. A home office also has the distinct advantage of lowering startup costs by eliminating office rent.
- Your work is always available. If you get a call at 8:00 pm and you need data from your work computer, it’s always near. Have international clients? Do customer service right and make that client call at 5:30 am. Your work is never far away.
Challenges of a Home Office
- Limited hiring capabilities. While a home office may be perfect for the sole practitioner, it can be hard to hire employees. You may be able to fit one, maybe two, employees in your home, but you lose privacy as a result. As you grow, you’ll likely have to find a new location.
- Lack of “professional space” to take clients. Meeting with clients can be hard when you work out of a private residence. Do you have space set aside for client meetings? Can your appointments be done in shared spaces, like coffee shops?
- Lack of boundaries and inability to leave. Burnout is the worst. When you work at home, you’re home all the time. You live at home, work at home, and sleep at home. This seclusion can cause undue stress and anxiety. Can you rest during your off hours knowing you have an unfinished project one door down?
The Incubator—Coworking Office
Freelancers, contractors, and startups are flocking to coworking office spaces. Essentially a big, flexible shared space that is occupied by a variety of employers and industries, a coworking space can be great for folks who are energized by people.
Benefits of a Coworking Space
- Lower Costs. With a coworking space, you have the advantage of having access to the tools and resources you need at a much lower price. You also avoid paying rent on an office or getting roped into a lease.
- Collaboration and networking. There’s something powerful about being surrounded by smart, creative people. In a coworking space, you get the opportunity to network with other entrepreneurs and freelancers, reach out to them for advice, and learn from them.
- Community. When you put a bunch of smart people together, a community develops. Natural camaraderie builds a sense of identity within a community of smart, like-minded people.
Challenges of a Coworking Space
- Distractions. Distractions are everywhere. The community and networking that can be such a benefit can also distract you from tackling the tasks on your plate. This kind of environment isn’t for the easily sidetracked.
- Cost. Coworking spaces are much less costly than renting an office but more expensive than working from home. If you’re just getting off the ground, $300-$500 a month may be outside your budget.
- Noise. When you put a lot of people in one space, things can get loud. While coworking spaces can be great for collaboration, they might not be the best strategy for making phone calls. If you need to focus, you’ll probably need your headphones.
The Traveler—Virtual Office
Maybe you don’t need an office at all. Maybe you travel, have virtual clients, and don’t need traditional office supplies. A virtual office space is essentially no office space. It’s the ability to work completely from wherever your computer is. With telecommunication tools, cloud storage solutions, outsourcing capabilities (like maybe a receptionist?), and conferencing technology, physical location doesn’t have to hold you back anymore.
Benefits of a Virtual Office
- Cost. Your overhead is just a fraction of what it would be anywhere else. You aren’t paying rent, buying supplies, and paying for phone lines. You get all the capability for less.
- Limited management. You aren’t managing a space. You don’t have to worry about doing dishes, getting a cleaning service in, and having building security.
- Work from anywhere. With virtual office spaces, you take your office with you. You can essentially work from anywhere and customize your workspace no matter where you are.
Challenges of Virtual Offices
- Lack of physical space comes with its own difficulties. As with a home office, the lack of physical location can make client meetings more difficult.
- Distractions abound. There are distractions everywhere you go, and the virtual office can have a lot of these same problems. If you’re working from home, while traveling, or in coffee shops, there are plenty of distractions.
- Communication. In a physical location, you can turn to your coworker to address a problem. When you’re working in a virtual space, communications can lag, and there is more room for miscommunication.
So, Which Office Type Are You?
If you want to foster happiness in your workplace, it’s important to make sure you have the right infrastructure. It all depends on your needs. Are you launching a small business? Leading a growing law practice? Venturing into the world a freelance web design? Each business, culture, and work style is going to require a different space to thrive.
Thing to Consider When Choosing a Workspace
- Size of your team
- Nature of your business—do you need to meet clients in person
- Company/team culture
- Preferences and lifestyle